Jake Guentzel continues to be a playoff hero, Sidney Crosby continues to be himself, and despite the fact the Penguins didn’t even have Evgeni Malkin in the lineup, Pittsburgh won the opener of this highly-anticipated Round 2 playoffs rematch—the Crosby vs. Ovechkin show.
It sure didn’t disappoint.
The Penguins clawed back from a 2-0 deficit and scored three unanswered goals in the third period to earn a 3-2 win over Washington, in Washington, to the dismay of the sea of red fans at Capital One Arena.
Here are six takeaways from Pittsburgh’s 3-2 win over Washington on Thursday.
No Time Wasted
If you needed any indication that this rematch was going to be a doozy, it revealed itself in the opening 17 seconds.
At the drop of the puck, Crosby won the faceoff and the Penguins got a shot away, but then the play turned the other way and everything happened oh-so-fast.
Tom Wilson dished it to Ovechkin, who threw up a beauty of an airborne breakout pass, which Evgeny Kuznetsov jumped on and promptly wristed past Penguins goalie, Matt Murray, glove-side, to make it 1-0.
Only 17 seconds had expired. Kuznetsov’s release was filthy, and the hometown crowd was in a tizzy.
And after that one, you couldn’t help but wonder: Will this be the Capitals’ year? Finally? Maybe?
In the first five minutes, Ovechkin was teed up for a one-timer on a nearly wide-open net, and he shot well wide, then dropped to his knees. It could’ve been 2-0 early on for the Capitals.
Ovechkin didn’t even record a shot in the first or second periods.
But No. 8’s first was a real beauty. It came in the opening seconds of the third and on another two-on-one, and Ovechkin clearly had no intention on passing. From his off-wing, he rifled a wrister, top shelf, glove side. It was 2-0 Capitals, just 28 seconds into the third.
How’d we know Ovechkin was going to shoot? He stuck out his tongue just before he fired it.
Gone in 4 minutes and 49 seconds…
Washington’s hopes of winning this game, that is. Kind of.
The Penguins have won the last two Stanley Cups for a reason. There were moments in their first-round series against Philadelphia when the Flyers were pressing and pressing and pressing and got a dozen chances, and then suddenly Pittsburgh would take it the other way and score on a single shot and suck all the hope out of the opposition, and win.
It was the same thing here. It took the Penguins, down 2-0 in the third, just 2:21 to tie this thing up and 4:49 to take a 3-2 lead they’d never relinquish.
A little over two minutes after Ovechkin made it 2-0, Patric Hornqvist tipped one home to cut Washington’s lead to one.
And then, you can probably guess who tied things up. Who else? Crosby, co-leader of these playoffs in goals (7) and second overall in points (16), slapped one home.
Little more than two minutes after that, Crosby threw one at the net from the side boards, and Guentzel got a stick on it. Capitals goalie Braden Holtby could only look up at the ceiling after that one.
A 2-0 lead, gone in a flash.
If you ask Guentzel, it was never in doubt. "Just got to stay with it," he told reporters, after the game. "Right from Sid, he led the way for us and it’s right down the lineup. we knew we were getting chances."
We really have to talk about Jake
Here are some facts about Guentzel: He’s a third-round pick. He’s 23. He’s from Omaha, Nebraska. In the regular season, he played all 82 games and scored 22 goals and had 48 points. That’s pretty good.
Through seven games in these playoffs, Guentzel has scored seven goals. Through seven games in these playoffs, Guentzel has 16 points. Nobody in the playoffs has more.
He had a team-leading three points on Thursday.
In 32 career playoff games, Guentzel has 20 goals. That’s ridiculous.
The man is a playoff machine.
One day, we’ll have to get him to explain it.
It’s early on, but Pittsburgh looks awfully good. Clinically good. They didn’t even have their leading scorer in the regular season, Evgeni Malkin, in the lineup on Thursday.
That’s not good news for Washington.
Malkin skated on Thursday morning, and could be back on Sunday for Game 2.
Holy Holtby and Murr-aculous
The first period star definitely goes to Holtby. He was dialled right in, and he played a good game throughout, but especially in the first, which could’ve easily seen Pittsburgh score a goal or two.
In that first frame, Holtby made some highlight-reel saves, somehow got a piece of a shot from Dominik Simon, which then ricocheted off the post. His nicest save came when he slid across the net and made a pad save on Guentzel.
"We had some Grade-As and obviously he made some saves," Guentzel told reporters, of Holtby.
Down at the other end, Murray, too, was spectacular. Twice, he dove across the net and made an insane save with his blocker. The biggest came in the dying minutes of the game, on Brett Connolly, to preserve the lead and the win.
"It’s a good feeling," a grinning Murray told Sportsnet’s Christine Simpson. "This is a hard building to win in, especially at this time of the year."
We’ll see if the defending champs can take a 2-0 lead when the Penguins and Capitals meet again for Game 2 on Sunday afternoon, back at Capital One Arena.